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The Importance Of The Dayton Agreement For Bosnia And Herzegovina

The Dayton Agreement was a peace agreement established on November 21st of 1995 by the Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia presidents and ended the Bosnia war. The Framework Agreement established peace in Herzegovina and Bosnia by preserving Bosnia as a single state consisting of two parts, the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat federation. Sarajevo was left as the undivided capital city. This agreement is referred to as the Dayton Accords because the negotiations occurred at the Air Force Base located just outside of Dayton, Ohio. The process was led by United States peace negotiator Richard Holbrooke and Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State.


During the 1990’s, war ensued in the former Yugoslavia after the Yugoslav federation was dissolved. This compromised Herzegovina, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia. Once Herzegovina and Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia, there were struggles to establish separate territories controlled by the Serbs. This led to a fight between the Bosniaks and Croats over territory. Slobodan Milosevic supplied military support to the Serb separatists as the leader of the Republic of Serbia. Ethnic communities were attacked and civilians imprisoned, raped and murdered.


The Croatian war ended in January of 1992 with an uneasy peace between the ethnic Serbs and the Croatian government. The Washington agreement ended the war between the Bosniaks and the Croats in March of 1994 when the Bosniak-Croat federation was established. The fighting between the Serbs and Croat-Bosniak forces continued and fire-free and no-fly zones were established around Sarajevo. Four Serb aircraft were shot down by NATO fighters in February of 1994 in the first use of force by NATO for a violation of the no-fly zone. Air strikes were conducted by NATO in May of 1995 on the Pale stronghold held by the Serbs.


Some of the territory held by the Serbs in Bosnia was recaptured by Croat and Bosniak forces during the summer of 1995. Operation Storm was the biggest European land operation since World War II. This was the first time the Serbs were defeated in four years and the balance of power was changed. President Clinton sent Peter Tarnoff, the Undersecretary of State and Anthony Lake, the National Security Advisor to Europe to help establish peace. The United States also shifted policy so if the Serbs refused to negotiate or the Bosnian safe areas were threatened by the Serbs air strikes would be conducted.


Air strikes against the Serbs were conducted by NATO in August of 1995 after Bosnian Serbs attacked Sarajevo. The Geneva talks were announced by Holbrooke on September 1st. The Bosnian Serbs did not comply with all the conditions set by NATO and the air strikes continued. As the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were convinced by Holbrooke to sign an agreement to end the siege and begin the peace talks in Dayton, Ohio. The conference started on November 1st of 1995 with representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Germany, France, the European Union and Russia.


The peace talks lasted for 21 days and ended the four years of war that claimed over 250,000 lives and led to 2 million people running from their homes. The final agreement was attributed to the skills of Holbrook and his team, Anthony Lake, Secretary of State Christopher, Samuel Berger the Deputy National Security Adviser and the United Nation’s Ambassador, Madeleine Albright. The agreement was formally signed on December 14th in Paris and included eleven annexes. The witnesses were President Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major, French President Jacques Chirac, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. There has been peace ever since.

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